I finally felt rested! I achieved just over 9 hours sleep yesterday and last night. I took an hour nap yesterday afternoon and then had just under 8 hours of sleep last night. When I woke up, I felt great.
As I suspected, my mosquito bites started to itch this morning. Upon closer examination, the biteshad swollen up quite large. I counted them up while in the shower. 16 total bites. 16! They must really like American O Negative blood.
The hotel we stayed in had a breakfast buffet, so once again we slept in. The buffet actually had scrambled eggs! The only down side was the buffet didn’t open until 7am. Generally by 7, we have been hiking an hour. It’s always a compromise.
This morning the compromise was more than worthwhile. When we awoke at 6 am it was raining. We knew the forecast called for rain, but we hoped we might get lucky. Afterall, the forecasters in Southern California get it wrong about 50% of the time when they forecast rain. It wasn’t raining terribly hard, but enough we didn’t want to start our walk in it.
At 7, we made our way down to the buffet and fueled up for the hike. By 7:30, we were ready to head out. The weather had settled down and was no longer raining. It was a nice, cool, overcast morning for the first 45 minutes of the hike.
The terrain varies greatly on the Camino. Concrete, asphalt, dirt road, and single track trail are all represented. We seem to walk more dirt road than anything else with concrete sidewalk or road being second. Many of the dirt roads consist of a good deal of rock with powder dirt. What we have discovered over the last several days, dirt roads are generally great. Unless they are more rock than dirt.
Today we learned, dirt roads with a ton of rocks embedded in them are our friends. All the rain, turned the roads to muck. The kind of mud that sticks to your shoes and cakes on, and is very slippery. The rocky dirt roads provided for substantially more traction, without the slip and slide, caking effect of mud. Strange how one minute you aren’t a fan, and the next minute you are asking for more.
About an hour in to our hike this morning, it began to rain. At first it was just a few drops. Then it progressed to a steady sprinkle. About 5 minutes into the steady sprinkle, I pulled out my pack cover, and my portable sweat lodge (rain coat).
I have found it is a toss-up when wearing rain gear. Do you want to be wet and cold from the rain? Or, wet and hot from sweating under your rain gear? Had it been 5 degrees warmer, I would have opted out of the rain gear and simply covered my pack so I would at least have dry clothes when we arrived in Navarrete.
We hiked for just shy of an hour in our rain gear until the rain subsided. I stripped out of my rain jacket at the first opportunity, only to be greeted with a light breeze that made me frigid cold from the accumulated sweat in my hiking shirt. It was a no win either way.
We were walking at a slower pace today as Molli and I both seemed to get bitten by the picture bug. We both took more pictures than usual. Our slower pace was also a result of many miles of walking on concrete, either sidewalk or roads.
Road walking has turned out to be brutal on my feet. They ache and burn within a couple of miles. I have to stop frequently and stretch my calves, ankles and toes when we end up on hard surface for any length of time. Mileage which took us 4 hours yesterday, took us 5.5 hours today.
We had one more bout of rain on our way to Navarette, and it rained on us hard for a good 15 minutes. Then it turned into sprinkles and on off until we made it to our destination.
When we reached Navarrete, we made our way to a small hostel. T&M had met the owners of a small coffee shop in Viana. US ex-pats that moved to Spain. They were most gracious and called the owner of the hostel and made reservations for us.
We were happy to arrive to a predetermined place and not have to find one. This turned out to be great, because as soon as we stopped moving as swiftly as we were while hiking, we all started to get cold.
The hostel is cute, with only 5 or 6 rooms with a private bath. Not bad accommodations for 17 euro each.
Today was somewhat of an emotional down day. This was a welcome relief. I have battled with my emotions for the last several days. Today seemed to be much more of a physical battle. My feet hurt, and my legs are tired. I would rather have a 45 pound pack and hike 15 miles on soft trails, than have a 17 pound pack and hike 12 miles on mostly concrete road and sidewalk.
Last night and this morning I received a few text messages and emails from friends and family back home. They are great to read and give me a big morale boost. The effort for those whom have written is minimal, but the gains for me are tremendous. I really appreciate them.
Since I have decided to hike the Camino, I have received a few questions and comments from people regarding my faith. While there are a large number of people who hike the Camino for “sport” or as a tourist, a large percentage of those whom undertake the hike are Christian. Of the Christians who hike it, a majority are of the catholic faith.
When I grew up, my family was a member of the Pentecostal church. The church we belonged to weren’t the extreme Pentecost whom are snake charmers. But overall Pentecostals are known for being one of the more conservative denomination of the christian faith. I did sunday school and christian summer camp growing up. I was very versed in the Christian faith.
In my middle and late highschool years, I became more and more active in a wide variety of extracurricular activities and had less and less time with church. Also as I moved through my high school years, my faith and my sexual identity clashed. From a very early age I knew there was something different about me and I spent a great deal of time trying to figure it out. My senior year of high school, I finally realized I was gay.
Based on the belief structure of my faith, this was an instant “doomed to hell” card. Innumerable sermons were drilled into my head all with the message, there is no room in heaven for homosexuals. I struggled with this a great deal. The balance between faith and my desire to be who I am was very tough. Ultimately I came to the conclusion I must abandon my faith as self-preservation. My decision was only further validated by the backlash, driven by religion, I saw as more and more people found out I was gay.
By no means am I biblical scholar. I have read a few books on the subject of homosexuality and the Christian bible. I wasn’t sold on their teachings necessarily.
It was a difficult period of time of time for me. How could the god I had grown up to love, hate me because I was gay? Afterall, based on teachings, god created everything in existence. Of course, popular christian religions will go on to say that being gay is a choice and I could easily “choose” not to be gay.
Well, I can no more choose to be straight, than a straight person could choose to be gay. Of course, if I had the desire I could choose to be celibate, but again, I don’t really believe that would be gods intention.
Predominantly what turned me off from Christianity was the hypocrisy of it all. “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Christians are so quick to whip out scripture to illustrate you are doomed. They fight so vehemently against something that has little to do with their day-to-day life. Why do they care if I love and marry a man? How does my love for Brian impact their life at all? The answer is, it doesn’t. I carry absolutely zero agenda when it comes to changing the “straight” way of life. Ultimately I wish to be treated the same as everyone else.
I could also go into the hundreds of passages in the bible that were considered sins but today are considered antiquated. Not eating shell-fish, mixing types of fabric, divorce, etc etc. These aren’t convenient to modern life, so they have been abandoned. But a single passage of Levitical law is used to demonize being gay.
Over the centuries, I believe organized religions have done many great things for humanity. They have fed the poor, tended to the sick, built beautiful buildings which serve as places of fellowship, provide safety and shelter in times of disaster, and provide solace in times of despair. Religions have preserved art and heritage, and created a heritage all their own. They have built stunning structures that have lasted hundreds and thousands of years.
On the flip side of the coin, millions of people have been persecuted and murdered in the name of various religions. Entire civilizations have been destroyed because they didn’t believe in the same “god” as those invading them. Religious fanaticism has been propagated by leadership of a faith-based organization for centuries to increase their numbers. The crusades and Muslim jihadists come to mind. This is the side of religion I carry disdain for.
In looking at the basis of most religions, the stories are universal. Help people who need help. Don’t kill people. Leave your neighbor’s wife alone. Don’t steal things. These are all great lessons in life, and provide a basis for which civilization can work and prosper. I also believe these are fundamental morals, regardless if you are religious. The message is simply about being a good person.
After swearing off religion and the associated God, I began to resent God. Resentment moved to down right hatred. Why would God allow me to love him, only so I could be told I was hated by him. And for the next 7 or 8 years I moved throughout my life sans God. Early on I wouldn’t have said I was an atheist, but I certainly didn’t want anything to do with God. Toward the last couple years of that stint, I began to doubt God existed.
One day, at work I was approached by my HR director whom I had befriended. In addition to being an HR director, Tom is an Old Roman Catholic Bishop. He is also gay, and in a long-term relationship with a man. I had no idea these two worlds could intersect considering my up bringing. I knew about the MCC organizations in larger cities that accepted gay people from all denominations and faiths in an open, non-judgemental way. I couldn’t be bothered. I felt these people were breaking the rules! It says so in the bible!
Tom and I talked at length about faith and his own reconciliation of being gay and a man of the cloth. Apparently in the Old Roman Catholic Church, being gay isn’t a big deal. I shared my background with him. I really had zero interest in resuming any sort of religious affiliation, but I enjoyed the conversations we had.
Tom had started his own congregation, but didn’t have his own church. He would use different churches within the community to hold his services and mass. His congregation wasn’t large but it appeared the followers he had were devoted. One afternoon he came to me and said, “I’m in a pickle, and I’m wondering if you might be willing to help me out.”
The following Sunday Tom was going to be ordaining a new priest and needed an additional altar boy. He said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t of faith and that he would greatly appreciate the help. I told him I would think about it and let him know the next day at work. I pondered it all evening. The next day I reluctantly agreed to help him out. He was a friend, and when I can, I help my friends.
On Sunday I went. I was dressed in a black robe and instructed on what my roll was. I honestly don’t recall exactly what I was supposed to do. I do remember it was pretty low impact and rather benign. The ordination went off without issue. As part of the ceremony, the new priest offers their first communion. All parishioners whom would like to have communion to form a line. If you weren’t of the catholic faith, but wanted to have a blessing from the new priest, that was acceptable as well.
I got in line. Not of the catholic faith, I opted simply to be blessed by the new priest. When it was my turn, I walked up and received my blessing. It consisted of me bowing my head and the priest touching me on the forehead and saying something, of which I don’t remember.
I fail to comprehend how something so benign can result in such an upheaval. I walked back to the pew I was sitting in and immediately started to sob. In the moment I was blessed, it felt as if I were touched by the hand of God. As I walked back to the pew, God spoke to me and said, “I understand why you have hated me, but it is not necessary for you to hate me any longer. I forgive and love you.”
Now, had this been my first little chat with God I might have been skeptical. It wasn’t. Growing up, I had numberous experiences in which God spoke to me, so I knew what I was hearing. Now I know some of my friends are atheist and could explain away what was happening. From my perspective, there is no need. I know what I experienced.
This experience opened a can of worms. I was suddenly and without warning was thrust right back into the struggle of trying to reconcile faith and being gay. I shared my struggles with Tom and Brian. An issue I had many years before buried came roaring back to life. I sought Tom’s advice on several occasion. I read multiple things on the subject, but really couldn’t put the pieces together. I thought I was going to have to bury it all again.
After several months of daily struggle, one day it became clear to me. I don’t have to believe in a particular religion and accept their prescribed dogma to have a relationship with god. And for me, that was the key. I unwound much of the teaching I had learned as a kid from my belief structure about what and who God is.
At this point in my life, I am comfortable being nondenominational spiritual being. If you ask me to explain what or who God is, I honestly can’t tell you. I have researched various faiths, and ideas on the subject and none seem to resonate. I believe there is a universal energy and an interconnectedness of all things. Perhaps this is enough understanding for me? Perhaps More will become clear as life carries on and I learn and grow as a person.
I have a very definitive list of things I believe God is not. I don’t believe there is an all-seeing all-knowing creator sitting on high tallying your sins. I don’t believe if you are a good person, you go to heaven and if you are a bad person you go to hell. I don’t believe in a savior from any faith. I know this can be difficult for people whom believe in a particular faith and the associated dogma.
We each have to come to terms with what resonates with us. My relationship with God is mine, and mine alone. Your relationship with God is yours. My perspective is this, I might be completely right in my beliefs, completely wrong, or some where in the middle. The same could be said for anyone else’s beliefs. We each have to carry faith in our beliefs. For those whom believe, I think the most important thing is; we believe.